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Cattaraugus Creek Basin Aquifer System Cattaraugus Creek Basin Aquifer System

I. Introduction

A. Statement of Section 1424 (e)

The Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA), Public Law 93-523, of December 16, 1974 contains a provision in Section 1424(e), which states that:

"If the Administrator determines, on his own initiative or upon petition, that an area has an aquifer which is the sole or principal drinking water source for the area and which, if contaminated, would create significant hazard to public health, he shall publish notice of that determination in the Federal Register. After the publication of any such notice, no commitment for Federal financial assistance (through a grant, contract, loan guarantee, or otherwise) may be entered into for any project which the Administrator determines may contaminate such aquifer through a recharge zone so as to create a significant hazard to public health, but a commitment for Federal financial assistance may, if authorized under another provision of law, be entered into to plan or design the project to assure that it will not so contaminate the aquifer.

This section allows for the specific designation of areas which are dependent upon ground water supplies. Following designation, the review process will ensure that federal agencies will not commit funds toward projects which may contaminate these ground water supplies.

B. Receipt of Petition

On February 28, 1985 the Southtown Homeowners Association petitioned the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator to declare the Cattaraugus Creek Basin Aquifer System (CCBA), as defined in the petition, a SSA under the provisions of the SDWA.

C. Area of Consideration

The boundary of the designated area specified in the petition submitted by the Southtown Homeowners Association was very angular and in some places extended beyond the drainage basin divide, which generally corresponds with the local ground water divide. EPA has refined the boundary to more accurately delineate the aquifer system and its recharge area. This boundary is the drainage basin divide of Cattaraugus Creek upstream from a point approximately two miles southeast of the town of Gowanda (Figure 1).

The CCBA is approximately 35 miles long and underlies approximately 325 square miles in the southern most part of the ErieNiagara drainage basin. The width of the designated area is approximately 25 miles at its eastern edge and thins to two miles at its western edge.

II. Hydrogeology

A. Geologic Framework

The CCBA is situated in the southernmost part of the ErieNiagara Basin, in hilly terrain known as the Appalachian Highlands. The aquifer system consists of: (1) unconfined sand and gravel deposits at the surface; (2) confined sand and gravel lenses separate from the unconfined deposits above by relatively impermeable clay till and lacustrine sediments, and 3) fractured shale bedrock (Figure 2).

Within the Cattaraugus Creek Basin ground water flows from upland areas, underlain by till and fractured bedrock, into lowland areas underlain by Quaternary unconsolidated deposits. Under natural conditions ground water discharges to streams which drain lowland rock and unconsolidated deposits are hydraulically interconnected and comprise an aquifer system since ground water flows from the fractured shale bedrock into both confined and unconfined deposits.

B. Geologic Setting

The Cattaraugus Creek Basin is underlain by southdipping sedimentary bedrock covered with unconsolidated deposits. The bedrock consists of Upper Devonian (approximately 350 million years old) shale, siltstone, and finegrained sandstone. Preglacial valleys in the bedrock were scoured by Pleistocene glaciation, then partially filled with glacial sediments. The glacial deposits consist of till, lacustrine deposits, and sand and gravel deposits.

Till is a nonsorted mixture of clay, sand, and gravel deposited directly from the ice sheet, generally forming a thin mantle over the bedrock. Till has a low permeability and will yield only small ground water supplies (sufficient for a household) from largediameter wells.

Lacustrine sediments are composed of interbedded clay, silt, and fine sand deposited in glacial lakes. Sandy parts of the deposits may yield smallground water supplies; but, otherwise, the unit is not water yielding and serves as a confining zone.

Glacial sand and gravel sediments deposited in glacial streams, are of two types; icecontact deposits and outwash deposits.

Icecontact deposits are interbedded sand and gravel washed out of the still melting glacier. Most ground water supplies developed for municipalities are icecontact deposits either exposed at the surface or buried beneath lake and outwash deposits. Yields are typically 500 g.p.m. to properly constructed wells.

Outwash deposits are interbedded sand and gravel deposited by glacial streams after the glacier was entirely melted. They are the last deposits to be formed in any particular valley. As a result, most deposits are thin and overlie lake deposits. They have a high permeability but will yield large ground water supplies only where thick. Yields are generally less than five-hundred (500) gallons per minute to properly constructed wells.

Sediments deposited since glaciation are thin and consist of alluvium and swamp deposits. Alluvium is the silt, sand, and gravel deposits of the presentday streams. Along the Cattaraugus Creek these sediments are mainly sand and gravel, as much as fifteen (15) feet thick, and provide a few small ground water supplies.

Swamp deposits of muck and fine sediments lie in poorly drained areas. m ey generally are areas of ground water discharge. Because of their low permeability, they are not a significant source of water.

A typical depositional sequence for all the unconsolidated sediments is illustrated in Figure 3.

C. Ground Water Hydrology

1. Recharge

Aquifer recharge occurs by precipitation on the land, by seepage from losing reaches of streams, and by subsurface flow from the till and bedrock along the sides and bottoms of the valleys.

In the Sardinia area, average annual recharge to the unconfined sand and gravel is estimated to be one million gallons per day per square mile (MGD/sq mi) (Miller and Staubitz, 1985). This estimate is derived as follows: 1) direct infiltration of precipitation on the surface of the sand and gravel averages 500,000 gallons per day per square mile; 2) runoff from till uplands that drains onto and seeps into the aquifer is 300,000 500,000 gpd/sq mi; and 3) ground water recharge to the sand and gravel deposits from adjacent till and bedrock is approximately 50,000 gpd/sq mi; (LaSala, 1968).

2. Discharge

Ground water discharges from the aquifer by seepage into streams and lakes, by evapotranspiration, and as flow to pumping wells. Ground water flow is predominantly towards Cattaraugus Creek.

Ground water discharge from the thick and extensive sand and gravel deposits is consistent, so that streamflow is sustained at relatively high rates through the summer during periods of little or no precipitation (LaSala, 1968).

3. Saturated Thickness

Saturated thickness of the unconfined sand and gravel deposits has been determined for two localities within the CCBA (Miller and Staubitz, 1985). In the Sardinia area, saturated thickness of the sand and gravel is five feet (5') to more than sixty feet (60'). Here, aquifer materials range in size from fine sand to coarse cobbles.

In the Springville area, saturated thickness of the unconfined aquifer reaches a maximum of fifteen to twenty feet (15-20') just north of Springville and near the town of East Concord. The saturated thickness of the aquifer decreases to the south towards Cattaraugus Creek.

4. Recharge Zone

The aquifer recharge zone is the land area where water can enter an aquifer directly, or indirectly by way of another formation. It generally consists of a permeable soil zone and underlying rock material that allows precipitation or surface water to reach the water table.

The streamflow source zone is defined as the upstream headwaters of losing streams which flow into the recharge area. The boundary of this zone is mapped by geographically locating the drainage divide, based on existing contours and stream drainage patterns.

In the case of the CCBA, the boundary of the recharge zone is the drainage basin divide.

5. Streamflow Source Zone

Because no streams flow into the Cattaraugus Creek Basin, there is no streamflow source zone for the aquifer.

D. Ground Water Quality

The most recent water quality data available for ground water in the Cattaraugus Creek Basin were obtained in the Sardinia and Springville areas (Miller and Staubitz, 1985).

1. Sardinia Area

In the Sardinia area, water samples were collected from 15 wells in August 1982 and January and May 1983. Seven of the wells tap unconfined surficial sand and gravel deposits at depths ranging from seventeen to sixty-nine feet (17-69'); the other eight tap confined sand and gravel deposits at depths of twenty-seven to three hundred thirty-four feet (27-344').

Chemical analyses indicate that the water quality of the CCBA in the Sardinia area is of drinking water quality. The water is moderately to very hard with values ranging from 92 to 274 mg/l as CaC03 and a median value of 172 mg/l as CaC03.

These water samples met the New York State drinking water standards for all inorganic constituents except iron and manganese, which were exceeded in seventeen samples from nine wells. The concentration of iron and manganese in these wells do not present a health hazard but could be of concern from an esthetic standpoint.

Because the unconfined sand and gravel is exposed at land surface, it is potentially susceptible to contamination from surface sources. Several of the shallow wells that tap the surficial aquifer had elevated levels of NO2and NO3, Cl, and total organic carbons which are characteristically derived from septic tanks, fertilizers, or other surface sources.

2. Springville Area

Ground water samples were collected during August 1982 and January and May 1983 from eight wells and two springs in the Springville area. Six of the wells tap the surficial sand and gravel aquifer at depths ranging from twenty-two to fifty-six feet (22-56'); the other two tap deep, confined sand and gravel deposits at depths of one hundred thirty-seven to three hundred feet (137-300'). The two springs emanate from the surficial sand and gravel aquifer.

Chemical analyses indicate that the water in the Springville area is suitable or marginally suitable for most uses. Hardness values range from 78 to 445 mg/l as CaCO3 (moderately hard to very hard), with a median value of 238 mg/l as CaCO3 (very hard). Seven of the ten sampling sites had very hard water, two had hard water, and one had moderately hard water. Iron and manganese exceeded the New York State drinking water standards in eight samples from four wells.

The New York State drinking water standard for nitrate (10 mg/l) was matched in one sample from a Springville well, and the standard was approached in samples from several other wells. The chloride standard (250 mg/l) was nearly exceeded in samples from two wells. Although no New York State drinking water standard has been established for sodium, the sodium concentration in some of the shallow wells exceeded EPA's recommended concentration limit of 20 mg/l for people on sodium restricted diets.

In the Springville area, the unconfined sand and gravel aquifer is exposed and directly recharged at the land surface. This makes the aquifer very susceptible to surface contamination. Results of the water quality analyses indicate that soluble material is indeed entering the aquifer from surface sources.

Nitrate concentrations in the two springs and all shallow wells exceeded 2.6 mg/l and in four wells exceeded 7.5 mg/l. The most likely source of nitrogen is considered to be the fertilizer which is used throughout this extensive agricultural valley.

Three shallow wells contained elevated concentrations of sodium and chloride. These wells area all close to major highways, suggesting that the aquifer is locally influenced by road salt.

The ground water in the deep, confined sand and gravel layers is as yet largely unaffected by surface contamination. The two deep wells had low concentrations of nitrate, sodium and chloride.

E. Ground Water Use

In 1984 the CCBA provided an estimated 2.85 MGD of drinking water to an aquifer service area with a population of 20,182 (Table 1). Approxi mately 2 MGD was pumped from the aquifer system by eight municipal and fifteen community systems serving 11,634 people (Table 2 and Table 3). Based on conversations with local water purveyors and New York State Department of Health officials, the remaining 8,548 service area residents depend upon the aquifer system through private wells and springs for their drinking water supplies. Assuming the average individual uses 100 gallons of water per day, in 1984 the aquifer system provided 0.85 MGD of drinking water through private water supplies.

Table 4 summarizes drinking water sources for the CCBA service area. Public water supply systems which utilize the aquifer system as their source supply seventy percent (70%) of the drinking water. Private supplies relying upon the aquifer system account for the remaining thirty percent (30%) of drinking water used. There are no surface water sources or other aquifers which provide water to the aquifer system service area.

This analysis shows that the towns included within the boundaries of the Cattaraugus Creek Basin area are entirely dependent upon the CCBA for their drinking water needs.

III. Susceptibility to Contamination

The Cattaraugus Creek Basin is vulnerable to contamination from many diverse sources. However, only projects which receive federal financial assistance will be subject to review under Section 1424(e) of the SDWA. Potential sources of contamination (not all receive federal financial assistance) include:

Transportation Routes and Facilities

A U.S. highway, several New York State highways, many county routes, and two railroads all pass through the aquifer area. The potential exists for an accidental spill on the land overlying the aquifer which could result in serious and direct contamination of the ground water supply. Tons of petroleum products and industrial and agricultural chemicals are carried through and used in the area each year. Therefore, accidental spills are a potential source of ground water contamination.


Runoff and leachate from landfills pose a potential contamination problem. The Chaffee Landfill site is located within the aquifer. The ground water near the landfill has been monitored in response to local concern about possible leachate migration. Findings indicate that the landfill has not affected ground water quality (Miller and Staubitz, 1985).

OnSite Septic Disposal

Most development depends upon onsite septic systems. These systems, depending on design and soil conditions, may lead to contamination of ground water system.

Storm Water Runoff

Rain and snowmelt runoff may contain various potential contaminants that can enter the aquifer system. These include deicing salts, animal excrement, pesticides, fertilizers, petroleum products, bacteria, and particulates from air pollutants.

Commercial and Industrial Facilities

There are various commercial and industrial facilities located within the aquifer boundaries. These facilities use or store chemicals and substances that could be hazardous if allowed to enter the ground water system. A common example is the storage of heating oil and gasoline, often in underground tanks. Leakage and/or accidental Spills from the storage tanks is a potential source of ground water contamination.

Future Development

Future commercial, industrial, or residential development is also a potential source of contamination to the aquifer. Therefore, projects should be designed to avoid significant increases in contaminant loading to the aquifer system.

IV. Alternative Sources of Drinking Water

The residents of communities within the area defined by the CCBA are entirely dependent upon ground water for their drinking water supply. If substantial contamination were to occur, it would create a significant hazard to public health. Existing wells could not be relocated to deeper depths because the bedrock underlying the sand and gravel aquifers only locally provides sufficient quantities of water for individual household use. Dry holes and insufficient yields are common in these bedrock wells (LaSala, 1968).

Lake Erie and Cattaraugus Creek were both evaluated as potential alternative sources of drinking water. The Cattaraugus Creek flow is not sufficient for the creek to be an alternative drinking water source.

Analysis of streamflow data for Cattaraugus Creek at Gowanda indicates that drinking water needs for the municipal and community supplies currently served by the CCBA could only be satisfied about ten percent (10%) of the time; and that more than fifty percent (50%) of the time streamflow could not meet even one-third of municipal and community needs (LaSala, 1968). In addition, any use of Cattaraugus Creek water for drinking purposes would require treatment.

It was determined that only Lake Erie is capable of supplying a sufficient quantity of water to replace the CCBA. However, without treatment, water taken from Lake Erie would not be of the same quality as that derived from the Cattaraugus Creek Basin Aquifer. Utilization of Lake Erie as a potential source of drinking water would entail significant capital expenditures to build treatment and distribution facilities, and operation and maintenance expenses.

The economic feasibility of an alternative drinking water source is evaluated in terms of whether use of the source would present an unusual economic burden to the community. If the cost of an alternate source exceeds 0.4 to 0.6 percent of the typical user's income, EPA considers use of the source to be economically infeasible. The SSA Petitioner Guidance recommends using mean household income as the typical user's income. However, median household income is used in the following analysis. This was the only data readily obtainable by Region II staff. Assumptions made during the economic feasibility analysis are summarized below.

The household income used during calculations was 12,626. This corres-ponds to the 1979 median household income for Erie County, which has the highest income of the affected counties in the designated area. The average number of people per household is 2.72 which means approxi mately 7,386 households reside in the designated area. The rough cost estimate for the construction and operation of distribution and treatment facilities to supply the designated area with water is based on conversations with EPA Drinking/Ground Water Protection Branch staff and Spartan Construction Pipeline Contractors. It is assumed that an initial capital investment of $25,000,000 would be paid over a forty year (40 yr.) period at seven percent interest. A breakdown of the estimated $25,000,000 initial investment and estimated annual operation and maintenance costs is presented in Table 5.

The rough cost estimate indicates that monthly payments for the construc tion, operation, and maintenance of treatment and distribution facilities to provide Lake Erie water to the entire aquifer service area would be approximately $206,000 or $27.89 per household/month. mis is equivalent to approximately two (2) percent of the typical user's income which is significantly higher than the 0.4 to 0.6 percent criteria to demonstrate economic infeasibility. This analysis shows that for the purpose of the sole source designation, Lake Erie is not an an alternative drinking water source.

V. Summary

Based upon the information presented, the CCBA meets the technical requirements for SSA designation. More than fifty percent (50%) of the drinking water for the aquifer service area is supplied by the CCBA. In addition, there are no economically feasible alternative drinking water sources which could replace the CCBA. Therefore, it is recommended that the CCBA be designated a SSA. This will provide an additional review of ground water protection measures, incorporating state and local measures whenever possible, for only those projects which request Federal financial assistance.

VI. Selected References

1. Banaszak, John E., P.E., JEB Consultants, technical consultant to Petitioner, Cattaruagus Creek Basin SSA petition, February 1985.

2. LaSala, A.M., Jr., 1968, Ground Water Resources of the Erie Niagara Basin, New York: U.S. Geological Survey and New York State Conservation DepartmentDivision of Water Resources, Report ENB-3, 114pp.

3. Miller, T.S., and Staubitz, W.W., 1985, Hydrogeologic Appraisal of Five Selected Aquifers in Erie County, New York: U.S. Geological Survey Water Resources Investigation Report 844334, 89 pp.

4. New York State Conservation Department, 1969, Erie Niagara Basin Comprehensive Water Resources Plan - Main Reporti: New York Conservation DepartmentDivision of Water Resources, ErieNiagara Basin Regional Water Resources Planning Board.

5. New York State Department of Transportation, 1980, New York State Map, 1:250,000, West Sheet.

6. Reade, Jim, Spartan Construction Company, personal communication, July 1987.

7. Robbins, Stoyle, Environmental Engineer, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Region II, Drinking/Ground Water Protection Branch, personal communication, June 1987.

8. Stiles, Rarl, water Engineer, New York State Department of Health, personal communication, July 1986.

VII. Tables

Table 1. Total Population Within Cattaraugus Creek Basin Aquifer Service Area

County Community Population
Cattaraugus Ashford Hollow 600*
  Delevan 1,197*
  Farmersville Station 978
  Freedom 1,840
  Lime Lake 867
  Machias 2,145*
  Sandusky 225*
  Yorkshire 1,236
Erie Chaffee 210*
  Sardinia 2,792
  Springville 4,285
Wyoming Arcade 3,714
Allegany Centerville Township 77**
  Rushford Township 16**

Population from 1980 Bureau of Census unless otherwise indicated.

* Population from New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH), 1985.

** Population estimated using NYSDOH data for the portion of the townships within the aquifer service area.

Table 2. Municipal Ground Water Supply Systems within Cattaraugus Creek Basin Aquifer Designation Area

County System Population
Pumpage (in
1,000 gal/day)
Cattaraugus Ashford Hollow 600 60
  Delevan 1,197 140
  Machias 1,000 100
  Sandusky 225 24
  Yorkshire 840 95
Erie Chaffee 210 20
  Springville 4,285 517
Wyoming Arcade 2,139 937
TOTALS   10,496 1,893


Table 3. Community Ground Water Supply Systems within Cattaraugus Creek Basin Aquifer Designation Area

County System Population
Pumpage (in
1,000 gal/day)
Cattaraugus Charlie Brown Trailer Court 80 6.40
  Dumar Trailer Court 18 1.35
  Elliot Apartments 30 2.25
  Foxfire Haven 45 3.40
  Freedom Park 14 1.05
  Lazy B Ranch 75 5.60
  Twin Lakes Mobile Homes 330 24.70
Erie Circle B Trailer Court 50 3.75
  Knox Apartments 84 6.30
  Perkins Trailer Park 70 5.25
  Springville Mobile Park 114 8.55
  Valley View Mobile Park 42 3.15
  Villages Apartments 50 3.75
Wyoming Birchwood Court 51 3.80
  Open Gate Trailer Court 80 6.00
TOTALS   1,138 85.30


Table 4. Current Drinking Water Source for the Cattaraugus Creek Aquifer System Service Area

Source / Use Public Water Supply Prive and Other Total
Petitioned Aquifer System 70 30 100%
Other Aquifers ---- ---- ----
Surface Water ---- ---- ----
Transported from the Outside ---- ---- ----
TOTALS 70 30 100%


Table 5. Estimate of Costs to use Lake Erie as an Alternative Water Supply

Cost Category Expense Approximate Costs
Capital 24" main from Lake Erie to Springville (approximately 35 miles) $13,860,000
  12" main from Springville to Arcade (approximately 15 miles) $ 2,376,000
  3 MGD Treatment Plant $ 4,500,000
  Other Expenses (local distribution lines, right-of-way, pump stations, water intakes, etc. $ 4,264,000
Total   $25,000,000
Operation & Maintenance Electricity for Pumping $246,175 per year
  Treatment Plant Operation & Maintenance $250,000 per year
  Distribution system maintenance & other miscellaneous expenses $100,000 per year


VIII. Figures

Cattaraugus Creek Figures


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